Executive Director's Column: Stirring the Pot

Elaine Weiss, JD
CEO/Executive Director

STS News, Fall 2019 — It is fall, my favorite season. Leaves are falling, mornings are brisk and hearty, and homemade soup is simmering on the stove. 

And a lot is simmering here at STS. Or at least we’re stirring the pot.

Our next generation STS National Database launches in January. Significant activity is under way as we work with our physician leaders, Database participants, and data managers to develop customized dashboards and prepare to pilot test the Database in November.

These improvements will result in enhanced data collection and reporting tools that will allow you to visualize and interact with your data. Ready access to your data and immediate feedback will help you quickly identify benchmarks, adjust your quality initiatives, and improve patient outcomes.

We are not taking a cookie cutter approach when it comes to this initiative—surgeon leaders from the adult cardiac, general thoracic, and congenital disciplines are working with us so that dashboards are tailored to the needs of each.

Innovative technology will surface the data and present it to you on your dashboard in easily digestible charts and graphs that you can access and interact with online. This is a major enhancement to the current PDFs that have hundreds of pages of information and do not provide you with an ability to interact with or update your data.

In July 2020, to coincide with the Adult Cardiac Surgery Database specification upgrade, you also will see a 30% reduction in the number of data collection fields. This will make it easier for data managers to enter cases, saving you time and money. 

In addition, the new STS Database will have a game-changing supplemental dataset with longitudinal outcomes (i.e., reoperation data and National Death Index data). The longitudinal data will dramatically expand opportunities for quality improvement and research initiatives. This additional dataset should be available by Spring 2020 through the STS Research Center (see page 1).

We are not taking a cookie cutter approach when it comes to this initiative.

Meanwhile, STS is ramping up for the 2020 STS Annual Meeting in New Orleans (see page 1), which will be preceded by two other educational opportunities—the Coding Workshop (January 24-25) and a new Leadership Summit (January 24) aimed at cardiothoracic surgeons in their first 8 years of practice.

Leadership Beyond the Operating Room for Early Career Surgeons will assist early career surgeons with both professional and personal skill development, inside and outside of the workplace. The Summit will cover everything from managing people and finances to managing yourself. More information is available at sts.org/leadershipsummit.

Following the Leadership Summit and with the backdrop of New Orleans and Mardi Gras season, the 2020 STS Annual Meeting promises to be a lively event and a terrific educational opportunity to learn from the leaders in the profession, reconnect with colleagues, and maybe, just maybe, savor a beignet or a bowl of gumbo in between sessions. 

Far beyond Bourbon Street and into the Beltway, the activity is a little less festive. This summer, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published its Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) proposed rule for 2020. The proposal contains a number of provisions potentially harmful to cardiothoracic surgeons. These include reimbursement rate reductions, threats to global payments, and updates that could make Merit-Based Incentive Payment System requirements more difficult to achieve.

In response to the proposed rule, STS actively is advocating on behalf of the profession: we submitted comprehensive comments to CMS expressing our concerns, and we’re working with the surgical community to contact key Congressional leaders and seek their assistance in communicating our concerns to CMS (see page 14).

Back in Chicago, the STS team is working hard to provide our members with the right products and programs to meet their day-to-day professional needs. I hope you’ve had a chance to see our new daily e-news digest, Cardiothoracic Surgery News. Electronically delivered to you each morning, it curates and captures key updates relevant to cardiothoracic surgeons. From breaking news to breakthrough research from around the world, CT News provides a quick read to start your day.

Finally, I hope all cardiothoracic surgeons practicing in the United States will complete the Practice Survey. A link was emailed in mid-September. The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete, and your answers go directly to our research partner Relevant Research. No one in STS leadership has access to individual survey responses. Your participation in this survey is critically important to ensure that STS continues to understand the demographics, trends, and workforce that compose the specialty. A greater number of survey responses means that STS can do a better job developing and delivering the programs, products, and services you need to excel professionally and meet the needs of your patients. 

I look forward to seeing everyone at upcoming meetings. Enjoy the fall, savor the holiday season, and then fasten your seatbelts. 2020 is going to be an exciting and action-packed year.